Heat Lamps – 3 common issues and how to avoid them

When it comes to heating an enclosure, heat lamps are the most popular choice among reptile keepers. They are easy to set up and create a nice hot-spot for your reptile. They are certainly among the most efficient heat sources you can choose for your terrarium.

Heat lamps are the most popular heating device among reptile keepers

Yet, many keepers encounter a number of problems when dealing with heat lamps.

In this post I want to address issues like overheating, dried out air and skin burns on the animal or the keeper himself and how you can avoid them.

1. Overheating

Certainly, the most common issue reptile keepers have with their lamps is overheating. You can recognize this issue quite easily – either you realize that the thermometer in your enclosure show a higher than appropriate temperature or you tried touching the lamp and it was very painful. Either way, this is a very common issue and it can be dangerous for your animal depending on how the lamp is set up. Now, why does almost every heat lamp overheat eventually?

Here’s why:

Skin burns on your pet reptile are not very pretty and should be avoided!

Actually, it is not even the lamp that is overheating but most likely the metal case around it. Unless you chose the wrong intensity on your lamp, it should not get too hot. However, the longer you leave it switched on, the hotter its metal case is going to get and eventually, the case is going to radiate out even more heat along with the lamp.

Now, another reason why your heat lamp is getting so hot could very well be that you have underestimated its power when buying it and got a too strong lamp for your enclosure. This is very common with beginners and you will learn to guess the heat lamp intensity you need for your enclosure eventually. However, if you do not want to buy another lamp or constantly switch the lamp on and off to avoid the metal getting to hot, there is a much simpler solution to your problem – a thermostat!

Thermostats are very useful to control temperature levels!

If you do not know what a thermostat is, click HERE for a simple tutorial on how to use and set up this lifesaving device.

2. Your reptile keeps climbing on the lamp and burns its skin…

This goes along with the problem of overheating and is another very common issue among beginners. There are a number of reasons why this can occur…

As mentioned before, skin burns and other injuries from the heat lamp could be the result of overheating and burning hot metal cases of the lamp. Reptiles are often very curious and do not hesitate to climb around in their enclosures, even occasionally on their heat source.

Here’s how to fix this:

Premier Heat Lamp for Brooders, Lambs and PetsIn most cases, the thermostat will also solve the problem and protect your reptiles from injuries. However, sometimes, the lamp is still getting too hot and posing a threat to your reptiles health. In that scenario, only a protective basket above the heat lamp will do the trick and fully guarantee that your animal is not getting dangerously close to its heat source! Such a basket is very easy to install and can be acquired at your local pet store! You can also buy heat lamps that have protective caps installed already, like seen in the images. You can click HERE to check them out on amazon.com.


3. The heat lamp dries out the entire enclosure…

This is probably the most common problem with heat lamps and it is a very annoying one. Heat lamps distribute heat waves that have a tendency to dry the air around the lamp, which is especially problematic if you keep reptiles from more humid regions like South-east Asia or Central Afrika.

Unfortunately, there is really not much you can do about this, except for manually raising the humidity in the enclosure. You can also try to mist the surroundings of the lamp directly to counteract this annoying effect by cooling the surface of the lamp. However, if this issue gets too extreme, there are always other great options to heat your terrarium that do not have this issue.


2 Replies to “Heat Lamps – 3 common issues and how to avoid them”

  1. Hello

    I found your site to be very informative and I learned a great deal about heat lamps. I my self don’t have any reptile pets, yet I have friends that do and they have had the same problems that you state in your article.
    The drying out of the enclosure is probably the most I have heard my friends complain about their heat lamps.
    Is there a heat lamp that is combined with a source for creating humidity?
    Does having water inside the enclosure help with that?
    Is there a guide, for example which heat lamp works best for certain reptiles?
    I recommend having some video on how to properly use heat lamps for specific reptile pets.
    Great article, Thank You for teaching me something I know nothing about, very enlightening.

    1. Hi there,

      I am glad to hear that you have learned something from my content! 

      Unfortunately, I have not yet found a product on the market that avoids all the heat lamp issues. Each heat source has its pros and cons. You can continue reading about other heating alternatives in my post “The best methods to heat your terrarium”.

      I will of course continue to extend my guides on reptile husbandy! 

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